Picks for Week 4 of SIFF 2008

The Wave (at SIFF)

A German film based on a novel by Todd Strasser. In turn, the novel is based on a real life high school classroom project that occurred in 1969 Palo Alto, California. From what I understand, the project spiraled out of control and unexpectedly spawned the seeds of fascism–good demonstration, but bummer of a result. The the teacher (Ben Ross) and two of his students attended the screening at SIFF to answer audience questions and talk about their experiences. I heard a rumor that this film does not yet have a U.S. distributor, but that would be a shame.

Phoebe in Wonderland (at IMDB)

An unidentified mental illness plagues a small town troop of child actors. Elle Fanning’s character Phoebe is definitely obsessive compulsive, that’s a fact everyone can agree on. But is she right for the part of Alice in the school play? Some of the characters in this film are a bit one-dimensional, but the script plays to a satisfying conclusion and tackles several social issues along the way.

The Secret of the Grain (at IMDB)

An aging, selfless shipyard worker decides to switch careers, though not entirely by choice. His dream is to create a floating restaurant. Maybe the dream is more for his friends and family than for himself. This is the story of couscous and fish, and a dinner party gone terribly wrong. What I found most interesting about this film was the enormous volume of dialog between its characters. All of the scenes are shot as complete, real-time sequences–encounters between individuals are filmed from beginning to end, not merely snapshots. Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but see the movie and you’ll understand.

The Unknown Woman (at IMDB)

This reminded me a little of Nikita, Luc Besson’s 1990 film. But the protagonist in Giuseppe Tornatore’s most recent movie isn’t an assassin…for the most part. This is the story of a Ukrainian woman who moves to Italy, trying to escape her sordid past and tracking down something she once lost. To do so, she will have to masquerade as someone she’s not and gain the trust of her new employers by whatever means necessary.